Refugee churches in Dzaleka are never quiet. Everyday there are different activities happening that give support and strength to the members. Today we met these two women from the Pentecostal Community Church who volunteer their time to teach other women in the church tailoring skills as well as providing them with emotional support. They also use their time to sew clothes and school uniforms for many of the highly vulnerable children who come to elementary school at the church. This hard working, generous spirit is seen in so many places along the refugee highway and it is a great inspiration for us at IAFR.
Yesterday we had the privelage of joining our friends at the Pentecostal Community Church for worship in Dzaleka. Upon arrival we were greeted with the biggest smiles and hugs I have seen in a long time. We were also greeted by these two children with the words “you are welcome.” It struck me that refugees are so quick to welcome us into their communities but so often the rest of the world will not welcome them into their communities. It was a real lesson in hospitality.
One of the things we heard on our first day in Dzaleka was the reality of many new arrivals to start this year. It was hard to hear the strain in the voices of our friends as they talked about the growing numbers of people in the camp and the strain this puts on the system. Yet I was also reminded of how it is the local refugee churches who are the first to welcome new arrivals and help them get settled into life in the camp. This is one of the informal roles local faith communities play on the refugee highway and it’s one of the many reasons why we love partnering with the refugee church.
This photo is of one corner of the refugee camp that has bee recently expanded to give space for new arrivals.
IAFR is back in Malawi again for the next 10 days visiting our friends in Dzaleka Refugee Camp. Our refugee friends often tell us that the simple act of us showing up on a regular basis gives the strength as it shows them they are not forgotten. We believe in helping break isolation, and we have seen how this can be an important step on the journey to recovery for forcibly displaced people. Please follow along with us this week on the blog as we share about our time in country.
Walking the refugee highway was described today as a ‘heart wound.’ You cannot necessarily see it on the outside of a person, but inside there is a deep wound that if left untreated can get worse and worse until a person is without hope. And when a person is without hope “they do not want to move forward anymore.”
These remarks came from a group of Pastors from Dzaleka who went through an introduction to a curriculum designed to help facilitate healing and recovery from the trauma of things like forced displacement. It was a heartbreaking experience to hear their stories and begin to understand a little more the burdens these leaders carry as leaders and mentors in the community. Their resilience and commitment to keep being present for their fellow refugees was inspiring to say the least. We went through many pages of notes and discussions and finished with a great African meal together. A huge thanks to SIL for helping facilitate the discussions.
Yesterday we visited Dzaleka Pentecostal Church for their Sunday worship service. During the service their were songs sung in more than 7 different languages. It was amazing to see how people from so many different tribes, nations, and tongues come together in unity and love. I found myself thinking how much the world needs to learn from them…
One thing that makes it work is strong leaders who see the humanity and dignity in others and who see how much we can learn from each other. It’s a joy learning from such leaders.
I had a conversation with a former refugee friend today about her experiences. She said being a refugee is “going from a place of familiarity to unfamiliarity where you have to find a new normal that is different from anyone else’s normal.” When I heard this I was reminded how isolating it can be to walk the refugee highway, trying to find ‘normal’ in places and situations no one should ever have to consider ‘normal.’ Our work in Dzaleka is focused on helping to break the isolation of living in a refugee camp and to help refugees recover from the pains and loss of walking the refugee highway.
IAFR is on it’s way to visit our partners and friends in Dzaleka Refugee Camp. This time we are going with new friends from SIL. Our plans will be focused on talking with the staff of the There is Hope bible school to explore new ideas in trauma training. Here we are in the airport in Johannesburg waiting for our last flight to Lilongwe.
Jake and I are back in our respective cities in the USA, after a good visit with our friends in the Dzaleka Refugee camp.
This photo is not overly glamorous or exciting….but it reminds me of what we do at IAFR. We walk, we listen, we share, we collaborate, we work together with those who have been forcibly displaced. We listen to dreams, hopes, and plans and see if we can help make them happen.
We look to be a well of hope. We strive to help our friends, our brothers and sisters, pastors and churches, find strength in God. And we keep showing up….and walking.
There is always opportunity to make resources available so these can continue to happen at the Dzaleka Refugee camp in Malawi. If you are moved to do that, you can click here…and we promise that we will keep showing up.
When I showed up in Dzaleka eighteen months ago, this little girl was just a few weeks old. Her proud daddy is one of our dear pastor friends.
Yesterday, I was able to take this updated photo…
Life moves on…even in the refugee camp. Our prayer is that God will open a future for this little one.